By Wil Crisp.
Tripoli, 14 February 2013:
“Almost everyone who drives past buys a flag,’ explained Abdalati Aljanzuri. “Even if they bought a flag the day before, people buy them again and again.”
Aljanzuri runs a roadside stall selling flags in Martyrs Square and is doing a brisk trade as drivers stock up ahead of the 17 February anniversary celebrations.
“I’ve bought many, many flags,’ said one of his customers with a grin, “I’ve already got them on my car and outside my house and now I’m getting some more to take out with us on the anniversary. I’m enjoying the opportunity to celebrate Libya’s freedom.”
Earlier this week Prime Minister Ali Zidan said it was up to the people to celebrate in the manner they choose, and it seems as if Tripoli has decided to celebrate with as many flags as possible.
Despite the heavy rain today, Tripoli, like most of Libya, is in party mood. The scenes of party preparations of the past couple of days across the city contrast starkly with the constant reports in the international media of the country nervous about security and in danger of sliding into chaos.
Every day more and more bunting criss-crosses Tripoli’s streets and more cars are decked out with revolutionary images. Stalls are selling hats with flags on them, scarves with flags on them, flag rosettes, flag stickers and flag umbrellas. All over the city people are decorating their houses, their streets and their work places. Even the military has been caught up in the enthusiasm and flags can be seen flying here and there from the weapons mounted on their trucks.
At Aljanzuri’s stall everyone is smiling and chatting as they flick through his wares.
“I’m not just going to celebrate on the seventeenth, I’m going to celebrate all week,’ one flag-buyer enthused.
Along with the increased flag-waving security has also been ratcheted up ahead of the celebrations, as Cyrenaican federalists call for a ‘second revolution’. Hundreds of extra soldiers and militiamen are patrolling the streets and earlier this month the Interior Ministry said it intended to set up more than 1,400 checkpoints across the city over the anniversary period due to concerns about violent protests. Armoured cars are also patrolling the city and the road outside the General National Congress offices has been completely closed as a precaution against attacks.
But even with the military build-up and the threat of violence the mood in the Tripoli is buoyant. Another person at the flag stall said he didn’t believe there would be violence but was still reassured by the checkpoints: “I’m glad there is security as you never know what will happen, but I’m sure that there is only going to be peaceful protests. I don’t think people mean trouble but I’m still happy when I’m checked.”
Others were dismissive about the security risks: “Look around you, it’s clear that there is just going an enormous party. If you’re looking for trouble you’ll have to go to Benghazi.”
Even those critical of the General National Congress are getting ready to celebrate. Speaking in Martyrs’ Square, Faisel Yousef said he would put his problems with the government to one side for the celebrations.
“They’re thieves! I believe they’re terrible thieves,” he said shaking his fist, “but why would I protest against the GNC this weekend? Qadaffi is gone and many great things have been achieved by the revolution. The anniversary should be a time of celebration.”
Sadeq Ahmed El-Mabruq also said it was the wrong time to protest but for different reasons.
“Some of the protesters have a good motive to demonstrate but some just want to stir up trouble”, he said. “Libya is fragile at the moment and I think it would be best if these protests were left to more stable times.”
Even with all the enthusiasm on the streets not everyone is ready to lose themselves in the flag waving euphoria. One former revolutionary told the Libya Herald he believes the country’s politicians haven’t done enough to change Libya since the fall of the Qaddafi:
“I haven’t decided what I’m going to do on the fifteenth and seventeenth yet,” he said. “I want to show that I’m unhappy with the GNC so I might join a protest but I also want to celebrate the achievements of the revolution with my friends. I’ll probably also do a shift with my former brigade to try and help keep the peace as well.”